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After some tweaking, the Senate voted Wednesday to require that before students can graduate high school, they must pass the same civics test that is given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.
Senators took steps to reduce how many questions will be asked and ensure that the requirement begins in 2016 and not this year. But several still argued that it creates a foolish obstacle for graduation.
The Senate passed SB60 on a 20-8 vote and sent it to the House for consideration.
The bill now requires asking 50 of the 100 questions that immigrants must study, and answer at least 70 percent correctly to graduate. Immigrants are only asked 10 of the 100 questions, and need only a 60 percent score to pass.
Questions are basic, and range from asking test-takers to name such things as the three branches of the federal government, their state capital, the U.S. president and some rights listed in the First Amendment.
The bill originally sought to ask all 100 questions given for study. But Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said that could take some students two hours and amended the requirement to 50.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, argued the questions are easy, and said all 100 questions could be answered in five minutes.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said previously, "If it's so easy, why do we do it."
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to allow the state school board to exempt students from the test to possibly help those with learning disabilities or other problems. He warned the test may block graduation for some.
But Stephenson said the bill "will create a sense of pride in every student who graduates" by knowing "they have taken the same test as immigrants" who became citizens. He said it will ensure a student is prepared "to be a more involved citizen and a more informed voter."
The bill is part of a national drive by the Joe Foss Initiative. It seek to have all 50 states pass such legislation by Sept. 17, 2017 the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.